While the threat of a pandemic has become real as the world meltdown caused by the coronavirus is accelerating, with spikes in confirmed cases and a surging death toll, China, the first country entangled in the unprecedented public health crisis, is gradually ascending from the darkest moment two months later following all-out efforts and strong collective will.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province on Tuesday, March 10, sent out a strong message of the unswerving determination of the Chinese people in scoring a victory in this battle, glorified the huge sacrifices made by local residents and frontline staff whom he hailed as heroes.
Xi arrived in Wuhan to inspect epidemic prevention and control work in the province and its capital city Wuhan. The Chinese president, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, went straight to Huoshenshan Hospital after arriving in Wuhan, and learned about the hospital’s operations, treatment of patients, protection for medical workers and scientific research.
Huoshenshan Hospital is the first designated COVID-19 hospital that was completed on February 2 and started admitting patients from February 3. The construction concluded in just 10 days.
He also encouraged a patient being treated at the hospital in a video call. Later, Xi visited residents of a community in Wuhan undergoing self-quarantine, looking into community-level epidemic prevention and control work as well as daily necessity supply work and expressed appreciation to frontline workers and local residents.
Xi’s Wuhan visit shows the turning point of China’s domestic fight against the epidemic has arrived, and now the focus of the fighting is shifting to preventing imported cases of infections and gradually resuming economic activities and production, analysts said.
Following a lockdown of Wuhan — the ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak – and Hubei Province involving about 58 million people, the containment measures, which came along with heavy costs, have now yielded tangible positive outcomes, as new infection numbers significantly dropped and 28 of the country’s provincial-level regions had registered zero new infections as of Monday, March 9.
After about two months of epidemic control and prevention work, China is gradually coming out of the darkest phase, and it’s time for the nation to accelerate resumption of normal work as well as social order. And Xi’s visit also reflected China’s determination to “score a victory” in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.
It has been two months since Wuhan reported the first death from the COVID-19 on January 9, and the epicenter and the province, more populous than metropolis such as New York and London, have been completely shut down, while many residents described their experiences of getting through the city lockdown like “hitting the pause on life.”
In the past months, the country has been mobilizing and dispatching thousands of medical staff to support Wuhan and Hubei, and a massive top-down campaign was launched to allocate resources, and officials and Party members have become the backbone in this battle, which was also called the “people’s war.”
As of March 1, more than 35,000 medical staff from 29 regions and the PLA came to support Wuhan. 44,500 Party officials work round-the-clock in about 3,000 communities to make sure all suspected and confirmed patients are treated.
Medical staffs are the biggest contributors amid the outbreak, and the Party and the people will give them the biggest credit, Xi noted on Tuesday.
Xi’s visit at this stage showed that China has achieved a phased victory that can help stabilize and control the epidemic situation, said Lu Keli, an associate professor of the school of Marxism studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
Since the outbreak, Xi has personally commanded this war. He has been paying constant attention to epidemic prevention and control work and has given verbal or written instructions every day.
From January 7 to March 2, he convened six meetings of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and one meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, urging authorities at every level to put forth resolute efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Lessons from Wuhan
During the visit, Xi also expressed his appreciation to Wuhan people, for those who have made huge sacrifices and contributions to the epidemic prevention and control work, guaranteeing the visible progress. Xi also hailed them as heroes, and said the battle would be remembered throughout history.
In this war, people in Wuhan and Hubei had paid a heavy price, exposing loopholes in local governance and re-examining the country’s top-down emergency response mechanism, particularly shedding light on problems embedded not only with the governance mechanism but also the mentality of some officials who seriously delayed their response to this public health crisis.
Amid a national outcry for accountability, as the COVID-19 occurred with repeating patterns like SARS, which was not caused by certain people but triggered by a poor decision-making mechanism at the local government level, the outbreak has also lead to deep reflection, such as bureaucracy and formalities for the sake of formalities, analysts said.
The central government has urged over the past month to fix the loopholes and shortcomings in local governance as well as with the public health emergency management mechanism.
Meanwhile, it has become more urgent not to relax on epidemic control work while ensuring the resumption of daily work, as China also plays the role of a stabilizer of the global economy, especially when the world faces more uncertainties amid the outbreaks.
In spite of mishandling the public crisis at the early stages, authorities quickly addressed governance shortcomings, focusing on fighting this war with a sense of responsibility and collective action, reflecting the country’s commitment to the world.
As the epidemic situation becomes worse outside China, the country has been shifting from a support receiver to an active contributor of epidemic control measures, clinical expertise and medical supplies.
Since the outbreak, the central government dispatched an inspection group to guide epidemic control work in Hubei, and a number of local officials have been questioned and punished for failing to fulfill their duties in the prevention and control work, reshuffling top officials in local authorities.
Jiang Chaoliang, former secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the CPC, and Ma Guoqiang, Wuhan Party chief, were removed from their positions on February 13. The local disciplinary authority held 620 officials in Wuhan accountable as of February 21, according to media reports.
Cities in Hubei began to partially lift lockdown measures, and local authorities rolled out color-coded health ratings on Tuesday for local residents, encouraging those with low health risks to return to work.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19, not only the Chinese economy, but the world economy is also being impacted, as the US stock market registered its most serious decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and many countries in Northeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East are also suffering from the outbreak, Lu of the Renmin University said.
“China will also be very cautious to secure the positive trend and strictly prevent the recurrence of the deadly disease. Whether it is for the Chinese economy or world economy, as well as the financial markets, the confidence is essential for the recovery,” he stressed.
Though China has taken the lead in achieving effective epidemic prevention, the other half of the job is still far from complete, as the WHO said the risk of a pandemic is becoming real, and infection cases have rapidly surged in over 100 countries and regions. When more Chinese people return to work, risks of renewed spread of the coronavirus grow.
“The epidemic control work might have achieved visible progress, other major tasks need to be done, including rebuilding the homeland in the post-COVID-19 period, easing the mental strain of the public, and deeply reflecting on mistakes made at the early stages,” said Shen Yi, director at the Research Center for Cyberspace Governance of Fudan University.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks highly of the sacrifices that Wuhan people have made during an inspection of the epidemic prevention and control work in Wuhan, Hubei Province on Tuesday, March 10. Photo: Xinhua